Described as simply “the rise and fall of Tower Records”, All Things Must Pass is a stylish, moving, and energetic documentary that studies the colossal music empire of Russ Solomon, and the eras of the store’s raucous success that led to its inevitable, abrupt crash.
Directed by well-known actor Colin Hanks (Orange County, King Kong), the production is one that took 7 years to piece together, featuring interviews with Solomon and a myriad of his fellow Tower Records colleagues, as well as famous faces like Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, and Dave Grohl. All Things Must Pass is a documentary packed with interviewees with captivating history to reveal, giving the movie a dense catalogue of information that never goes stale or flat at any point.
The movie itself is a time capsule, taking its audience to the ragtag roots of Tower Records in the 60s to its cultural boom in the 70s and 80s, all the way to its demise at the turn of the millennium. Hanks keeps the story chronological, providing exclusive footage and photos of the iconic record shops, transporting the viewer into the era in question and defining Tower Records through the landscape of artists it promoted (including The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Elton John, Jimmy Page, etc).
It does well to neither blame nor glorify Solomon’s fearless (and sometimes dangerous) approach to his business…and believe me, Solomon’s story is fascinating enough with or without the sympathy. The documentary’s centerpiece is a grand, progressive, charming, and foolhardy visionary, steering his employees into the uncertain future for 38 years with steadfast enthusiasm. Despite some apprehension through the decades, the love and joy his legacy left is evident in all of his employees, who proudly call Tower Records their family.
For the most part All Things Must Pass is a lighthearted and humorous insight into the massive force of nature Solomon build from ground zero; but just as the history of Tower Records easily brings you to an emotional high, so it carries you into moments of sadness, loss, and disappointment. The documentary is slick, beautifully composed, and mentally engaging- an enlightening, fun-filled adventure from the first frame to the last. It’s a rollercoaster that I highly recommend you ride.